At the end of the first leg of Rallye Deutschland, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore head the team's assault in eighth position. The fight around them is however intense and less than 30 seconds is all that splits...
At the end of the first leg of Rallye Deutschland, the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore head the team's assault in eighth position. The fight around them is however intense and less than 30 seconds is all that splits them from fourth position. Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team-mates Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen hold 11th, easing themselves back into asphalt rallying after an absence of three years.
"It is good that we have both cars at the end of the leg and they have maintained my request to do a steady rally", commented Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports. "Gigi needs to build his confidence again after Finland, but we can see that it is increasing and the fact that he is not so far away from fourth position shows his performance is good. I don't want to push Harri because it is so long since his last Tarmac rally, but the level is good".
The event officially started last night at the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in Trier where, despite pouring rain, large crowds of spectators came to cheer on their heroes before they embarked on the opening leg of competition today. Re-starting in Bostalsee - 60 kilometers to the south east - this morning, drier conditions and intermittent sunshine were a welcome sight as the picturesque roads in the Mosel vineyards can be tricky at the best of times. In total, the leg took in two identical loops of three stages totaling 119.38 competitive kilometers.
Gigi Galli, who briefly led this event last year in Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution, has been determined to maintain a comfortable pace, all too aware of the treacherous nature of the roads. After two ninth-fastest times, however, he then posted a sixth fastest time to move up the leaderboard into seventh back at the mid-leg service. This afternoon, the Italian has maintained his speed and posted another sixth fastest time. He did however lose a place to Markko Martin after SS4 but overnights just 1.2 seconds behind the Estonian.
"We started very carefully this morning and I am trying to maintain a good pace, preferring to think of the experience", commented Gigi. "We have tried different set-ups to use this information for the future and although our tires this afternoon were maybe too soft, we wanted to try them to judge the performance. It still doesn't feel right to push harder tomorrow. Each leg is different and I don't want to make a mistake. You don't have to think about whether you want to go faster; if the feeling is right you just know".
Team-mate Harri Rovanpera is being similarly cautious, being that his last true asphalt event was Rallye Sanremo back in 2002.
"For sure it's not so easy after such a long time away from this surface", said Harri. "It's been a difficult day with some small mistakes like the stall on a hairpin in SS3 and then an overshoot in the following stage. We went for harder suspension this afternoon but there wasn't such a big difference, both settings worked well. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but the nature of the stages is very different".
Adding to the drivers' comments, Principal Rally Engineer Roger Estrada said: "We have had no technical problems today and the drivers are getting used to the event. With the tires, maybe this morning we were a little too hard and this afternoon on the limit of being soft".
The second leg of the event takes the crews to the military grounds at Baumholder where the majority of the day's competition will be fought out. The leg, the longest of the event, then finishes with the first run around the super special stage in St. Wendel. In total, Leg 2 covers seven stages and 145.94 competitive kilometers.
News from our rivals
Sebastien Loeb, winner of this event on three occasions, takes the overnight lead and Citroen holds a one-two with team-mate Francois Duval hot on his heels and just 11.7 seconds adrift. Marcus Gronholm is third in the lead Peugeot with Petter Solberg fourth after a trouble-free day. Toni Gardemeister, fifth, went off the road this morning, travelling some distance through the vineyards before managing to get back on the stage, while team-mate Kresta also lost time when he got held up when Manfred Stohl went of the road. Markko Martin hit a wall in SS 3 but holds seventh overnight. The only leading retirement of the day was Skoda's Alex Bengue who went off the road in SS . Despite limited damage, he will not re-start tomorrow.